UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

April 2, 2009

BREVITAS

CRASH TALK

McClatchy - The massive programs designed to rescue the nation's financial sector are operating without adequate oversight, with vague goals and limited disclosure of their details to the taxpayers who are paying for them, government watchdogs told a Senate panel.

The Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, was launched in the midst of last fall's collapse of the nation's banking system and is designed to get loans flowing to businesses and individuals.

But "without a clearer explanation" about parts of the program, "it is not possible to exercise meaningful oversight over Treasury's actions," said Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law School professor who leads a special congressional oversight panel monitoring the TARP program. Her comments came in a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the bailout program.

Noting that TARP passed Congress six months ago, Warren said that her group has repeatedly called on the Treasury Department to provide a clear strategy for the program - and that "the absence of such a vision hampers effective oversight."

The Government Accountability Office shared some of the same concerns, saying in a new report that "Treasury continues to struggle with developing an effective overall communication strategy" for the TARP program.

Beyond that, the GAO's report pointed out the difficulty in even measuring whether TARP is working.

Jason Walsh, Christian Science Monitor - Europeans are taking militant actions to protect their jobs, pointing to a growing anger - and willingness to act on it - among workers in the European Union.

In the latest such move, staff at US automotive-parts manufacturer Visteon in Northern Ireland occupied a factory. . .

The British arm of Visteon, which is a major supplier to Ford, announced Tuesday that it was cutting almost 600 jobs across the United Kingdom, including 210 in Northern Ireland. It filed for bankruptcy the same day.
Workers immediately occupied Visteon's manufacturing facility in Belfast, seeking an enhanced layoff package, which they say should be financed by the factory's former owner, Ford Motor Co.

In Ireland, fired workers at Waterford Crystal occupied the world-renowned glassmaking factory after it was shut down. The occupation, which started in late January, ended after almost two months with the announcement that 176 jobs had been saved for at least six months.

In Dundee, Scotland, staff at Prisme, a box manufacturer, are in the fifth week of an occupation and are reportedly planning to restart the business as a workers' cooperative.

In France, workers at Caterpillar took the dramatic step Tuesday of kidnapping four managers, who were held for 24 hours at the company's plant in the southeastern city of Grenoble before being released Wednesday.

THE MIX

Pink News, UK - Six of the seven parties in Swedish parliament have backed a proposal to introduce a gender-neutral marriage law. The proposal passed today with a 261 to 22 vote and 16 abstentions. The only party to oppose the ruling were the Christian Democrats, stating that the party wanted to maintain "a several hundred-year-old concept" of marriage.
It is not yet certain that the changes will affect church marriage ceremonies, but in February, a majority of Church of Sweden bishops said the church should no longer handle legal marriage registrations, DPA reported.

CANADA

Portside - For the second time in 10 months, Canada's House of Commons told Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government, including Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney, to stop deporting U.S. soldiers resisting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The vote united the three opposition parties, the Liberals, the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democratic Party in a close 129-125 vote.

HEALTH & SCIENCE

Geek's Guide to World Domination -
The Mallinckrodt Baker Material Safety Data Sheet describes the lethal dose of caffeine as 192mg/kg in rats. . . In humans, lethal toxicity is estimated at between 150 and 200 mg/kg, meaning that an average adult would have to consume between 80 and 100 cups of coffee in a very short period of time to induce extreme badness. Forensic Science International reports a couple deaths from caffeine toxicity, all resulting from overdose of caffeine pills. The moral seems clear: once you reach your 70th cup of the afternoon, consider switching to Benzedrine, methamphetamines or another similar stimulant.

WAR DEPARTMENT

Jeremy Scahill, AlterNet - Federal records obtained by AlterNet reveal a multi-million dollar contract for a private U.S. paramilitary force operating out of Jerusalem. . . Triple Canopy, a Chicago company now based in Virginia. It may not have Blackwater's thuggish reputation, but Triple Canopy has its own bloody history in Iraq and a record of hiring mercenaries from countries with atrocious human rights records. What's more, Obama is not just using the company in Iraq, but also as a U.S.-government funded private security force in Israel/Palestine, operating out of Jerusalem. Beginning May 7th, Triple Canopy will officially take over Xe/Blackwater's mega-contract with the U.S. State Department for guarding occupation officials in Iraq. . . According to federal records, the original arrangement with Triple Canopy in Israel appears to date back to at least September 2005 and has been renewed every year since.

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